When she greets me in the kitchen, Beth’s smile is welcoming, like morning light. Today is her husband’s birthday and there are things to do and groceries buy and a double layer chocolate gelato cake yet to make. But first, she says, we’ve got to go on a hike.
“Will you still be my friend if I wear this hat?” she says.
“What happened to it?” I ask.
“The top fell off,” she says, pointing to a rim of frayed straw midway down the headcovering of the garden hat. “But it still provides shade because the brim is built to last.”
“Oh. I see. Well, I guess I can still be your friend,” I say, then smile.
She skips out the front door to load up her honey yellow 1970 Toyota Corona. The park is just a few miles from her home in Corvallis and the perfect example of a relatively wild space that is still accessible to city-dwellers. In other words, people who live in the city don’t have to plan a vacation or drive gas guzzling cars for hours in order to get a breath of fresh air and a view of wild, wider expanse. Better still, there are leash-free zones for dogs, and trails are approved for horses and mountains bikes too.
And so we hike for two hours or so. Up and up and around and around and all the while I understand that Beth knows where we are going because I am lost in the small beauties of the lush forest and completely unaware of navigating. There are wild peas, invasive daisies, lesser camas, and big leafed maples. There are salmonberry bushes and wild roses and glossy, wide, white oak trees dripping with mosses and lichen. Of course, there is also poison oak, it’s triple team of leaves licking innocent passersby at the trails edge. But most of all, there is the ease of Oregon air, featherweight and luminous, almost like the stretched edges of ocean waves gently lapping at the shores of my skin. I’ll stop at that, lest I overdo what I cherish most, but it is the air, my friends, that I miss the most, and I suspect it always will be. Breathe it in. Invite its vitality in through ever pore. Smile. Total relaxation.[Today’s pic!]